city, decor, houses, inspiration

the enviable london townhouse of a fashion and design maven

Elsa Young/Frank Features

Despite her pint-sized frame, there’s nothing diminutive about the way in which the owner of this London home lives her life. A curious nature and irreverent attitude have stood her in good stead against the vagaries of the fashion industry for more than a quarter of a century.

It’s a sensibility that is evident in the 1820s Regency townhouse in Marylebone that she shares with her husband, who is also her former business partner. The grandeur of its high ceilings, neutral walls, chevron-striped oak floorboards and views over a leafy square are matched only by the owner’s signature mix of art, ceramics, furniture, botanicals, curiosities and personal, precious pieces.

‘When we first bought the space, it was a one-floor apartment perfect for the two of us,’ she recalls. ‘At that stage we didn’t think we could have children, so when our two sons came along a few years later, things got more than a little cramped.’

‘I’m always creating little cameos of things or making narratives around objects I find inspiring. It’s a source of constant amusement to my sons.’

Rather than disturb the enviable proportions of the living spaces, the family initially ‘squashed up’ until they could buy another floor and spread out a bit. More than three decades on, the couple’s sons have left home and the apartment has grown with the help of architect Seth Stein. It now includes a garden flat that the owners rent out, and a roof terrace with a vegetable garden that feeds them all summer.

By all accounts, ‘bringing people together’ is core to what the owner does best. Be it her extended family or a collection of designers, her love of cooking, entertaining and making interesting, comfortable spaces means there’s a real a sense of humanity to her aesthetic. ‘I’m a complete magpie,’ she laughs. ‘I’m always creating little cameos of things or making narratives around objects I find inspiring. It’s a source of constant amusement to my sons.’

The open-plan kitchen of this Marylebone townhouse in London reflects its owner’s two great loves: ceramics and cooking. She is naturally drawn to attractive, hand-hewn pieces that are imbued with artisanal flair – nothing is merely functional. Here, the plaster of Paris leaf is by plaster artist Peter Hone.

A rustic farm table acts as a spacious kitchen workbench.

Green vases from Morocco form part of an extensive ceramics collection that includes pieces by artist Hylton Nel.

For someone so enamoured with beautiful pieces, her home is not the crowded, cluttered space you’d expect. Instead, it’s both refined and grounded, contemporary yet resonant, minimalist but eclectic. She attributes a good part of this to her South African roots. ‘I didn’t come from a highly industrialised society so I’ve an eye for all things basic and earthy.’ After a long and successful fashion career, the owner, who is now in her sixties, is back at college studying towards a degree in ceramics. ‘It’s strange that I’ve found myself trying to create in this medium because although it is a recent interest, I’ve realised that I’ve been a passionate collector of ceramics for most of my life,’ she muses.

It’s this curiosity and lust for learning that has enabled her to constantly reinvent herself which, combined with a strong, personal style, is something we can all strive for.  

The rooftop vegetable garden is a constant source of fresh produce.

Overlooking a leafy square, the generous living area is defined by its 4m-high ceilings, expansive windows and intricate cornices. Low-slung sofas, oak herringbone parquet and a vintage Victorian welder’s table are presided over by an ennead of gouache paintings from the Royal College of Art.

A full-length mirror helps give the illusion of more space and draws the eye up to a portrait by Jeni Ku.

As the main bedroom is relatively small, the owner installed a 2.5m-high headboard that doubles as a storage facility. The pale wall colour makes the room feel bigger and lighter.

The compact bathroom reflects architect Seth Stein’s signature minimalist use of stone, and a row of cupboards are seamlessly hidden behind wall panels.

A wooden dressing table from the owner’s grandmother displays relics and good-luck charms.